What is Spastic Diplegia Cerebral Palsy?

J.L. Drede

Spastic diplegia cerebral palsy is the most common form of cerebral palsy, making up more than 70 percent of known cases. Like all forms of cerebral palsy, it is caused from a trauma to the brain either right before, during, or after birth. There is no cure for the condition, only treatments that can help make living with the condition easier.

The damage that causes cerebral palsy usually occurs before birth.
The damage that causes cerebral palsy usually occurs before birth.

Spastic diplegia cerebral palsy directly affects the legs, with some minor affliction of the arms. Like all forms of cerebal palsy, it is caused by damage or abnormalities in the brain. In the case of spastic diplegia, these disruptions affect the brain's ability to communicate and control how the legs move and respond to stimuli. As a result, it causes a tightness of the muscles in the legs that can make walking awkward, difficult, or in some cases completely impossible. Tremors and other involuntary movements are also common.

People with cerebral palsy may develop spinal problems like scoliosis.
People with cerebral palsy may develop spinal problems like scoliosis.

Cases of spastic diplegia cerebral palsy are classified by their severity. Individuals with mild diplegia may only show slight symptoms, such as an unusual gait or limp. Many times they can walk unassisted and require little additional care.

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Spastic diplegia cerebral palsy affects the legs, and may also cause issues with muscle control in the arms.
Spastic diplegia cerebral palsy affects the legs, and may also cause issues with muscle control in the arms.

Those with moderate cases of spastic diplegia can sometimes walk on their own, but they may need aids such as crutches or a walker for day-to-day travel. Often they will require the need of a wheelchair if traveling long distances. Individuals with severe spastic diplegia cerebral palsy may be completely unable to walk and need a wheelchair or other assistance at all times.

In addition to decreased motor function of the legs, there are other conditions that are commonly found in people diagnosed with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy. More than 60 percent of those suffering from the condition will also have some form of mental retardation or learning disability, and 50 percent may suffer from repeated seizures. Other common complications of cerebral palsy can include stunted growth, poor eyesight, and spinal problems such as scoliosis.

Children with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy are more likely to have communication disorders affecting speech, eyesight, and hearing. Their poor motor control may also extend to the muscles of their throat and mouth, leading them to suffer from excessive drooling. Poor muscle control related to cerebral palsy may also lead to partial or complete incontinence.

Treatment for all types of cerebral palsy, including spastic diplegia, tend to include a combination of drugs, braces, and physical therapy. Surgery is sometimes an option, but it is most effective on younger children who are first exhibiting symptoms of the condition.

Cerebral palsy is typically broken down into four types, with the most common being spastic cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy is typically broken down into four types, with the most common being spastic cerebral palsy.

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